random thoughts • coming attractions • euphoric visions • misc ephemera

life is getting real interesting lately, isn't it?

Sunday, December 23, 2012


The Pivotvfx start date is now the 7th of January, so I'll have some time to explore my new neighborhood in Albuquerque. Thanks to a good friend, I've rented a casita near Old Town that is just perfect. It's 1 mile from work, and I'll have the use of a bicycle too. I'm checking around the neighborhood, and there do seem to be some interesting places to visit during my free time, including a live rattlesnake museum about five blocks away. As if I didn't have enough to keep me awake at night.
Nice to have this extra time to transition from home life in CT. The next four months should be so busy that I won't notice the passage of time, but I imagine there will be moments that take me by surprise and remind me how far away I am. Despite the distance and time apart, however, this is a journey that my wife and I are taking together. It is one that we have been working on for many years. Time to toast. To a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vision Accomplished

This shot has taken me on quite a journey. And I feel that it has come very close to what I saw in my mind's eye. I loved the process of sharing it with my colleagues as it developed. You all helped me enormously, and I am very grateful to you. Because of your experience and input, I created a shot that is so much better than I would have been able to produce entirely on my own. And I also see all the remaining flaws. I know how much better it could be with more time and polish (and yes, fewer poses!), but it is time to put this puppy to bed. I have a new adventure to prepare for... in Albuquerque.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Game Changer

The Mayan's prediction of a cataclysmic change on Dec 21st, 2012 has been largely regarded as a portent of doom. But there are others who have interpreted the Mayans' message as one that signifies great change that doesn't necessarily mean bad stuff is coming. Just big stuff. Life altering stuff.

For me, that change just occurred when I was invited to join the animation team at Pivotvfx for a five-month feature character animation project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's been about a week since I was sent the offer, and I am only now emerging from a dream state. This is huge. Pivotvfx is a new company comprised of seasoned industry veterans who decided to stay in Albuquerque when Sony Imageworks closed their facility there. And I will be under the supervision of their Animation Director, David Tart, a man with extensive animation and directorial credits at Pixar, Blue Sky, DNA, and other studios around the world.

I know how hard I have worked for this chance, and I know how lucky I am to have been given it. I am overwhelmed every time I think of how much I will grow as an animator in this environment. Five months is going to go by very fast!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Home Stretch!

Well, despite a hurricane, and a job that disappeared on me after the hurricane (they were located in lower Manhattan), I managed to hunker down at home and push my shot to a satisfying conclusion. It's about to get some much needed polish. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their observations and guidance. I learned more from doing this shot than I have in a long time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Painful Progress

This shot has been merciless, and it has taken me to the mat like no other that I have worked on to date. All the limitations I have with my equipment, my spare time, and my abilities as an animator are being pushed to the edge.

Frustrating as this process has been though, I have found it to be one of the most exciting learning experiences in advancing my know-how for troubleshooting a shot, and despite the aggravating setbacks I inch closer to the kind of work I want to be achieving.

So, I'm halfway there, with Anne's performance splined fully, but only Malcolm's first shot has been splined, with the rest of his performance still in stepped mode. In the last shot, I moved Anne closer to camera, and I think that was a mistake. I need to move her back closer to where she was in the previous blocking. While I have adapted my usual workflow to these nasty roadblocks, I feel in control of the shot and on track to complete it.

I would mostly like to know from you all if the first two splined shots in this scene are working for you.

Click on the picture below to see the current playblast:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Second blocking pass "make 'em weep, Ann"

Here is the second blocking pass that I am sharing for any critique you have. I appreciated all the emails I got on the first pass, and they were enormously helpful! I incorporated suggestions for some poses, pushing for emotional clarity, and worked on refining the timing, spacing and adding breakdowns. I have more to do here, but I think I am close to moving into spline. And I can't wait to put in the lipsync and work on the facial animation!

By the way, I hit a technical limitation with my equipment that has made this shot my Rock of Sisyphus over the last two weeks. The shot is gobbling up all my RAM, and I've been crashing constantly with memory exceptions and runtime errors after spending even a little time on the shot. I believe this is due to the wrap deformers that both characters use, and I have now learned to employ routines like swapping out unwrapped references, and that has helped alot. But I need to tweak shirt lines and belt orientation as I go, so I have to bring the hires wrapped versions back in every now and then. I'm learning how to dance near the edge of the cliff and save before the crashes. When I have the performances where I want them, I can break out the characters into two separate shots, and that will get me to the finish line. Anyway, here's my second blocking pass:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blocked, and ready for crit...

Here's a shot that I've been working on through the summer, when not engaged in my day job or a little thing called SIGGRAPH 2012, and I now have some time to push it to the next phase. I would benefit very much from fresh eyes, so if you have any critique on how I might plus this before going into spline, please share your thoughts!

<-- Click on pic to view Quicktime

p.s. for my non-animator friends not versed in 3D shot development, I realize I am talking in a foreign language when I say "plus this before going into spline" lol! So, really, just let me know if the rough blocking looks good to you, or if you think something is missing in the action. Note that this phase does not yet have full facial expressions, lipsync, or smoothed motion. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Hmmm, another five months have gone by without a blog post... must mean only one thing.... I've been working!  It's been a very productive 2012 and I should have some brand new eye candy to snaz up my reel in a little while. And I would be an ungrateful lout if I did not express my public gratitude to Angelo Collazo for his continued generosity in steering me toward job opportunities that come to his attention.

I booked  a gig at Absolute Post, a NY commercial house in the Chelsea district that has an affiliate office in London. And just to remind us that the pond inbetween is not that large, we had tea time at 4p every day which was a delightful touch. Working with them, I contributed to a couple of commercials that are currently airing. One was for Lipton Ice Tea. I animated some of the shots of the band Lady Antebellum as they transform into transparent 3D versions of themselves with floating tea leaves inside. Using a technique called "rotomation", I took the video footage of their playing in concert and animated the cg versions to match their performances. Some of the shots were roughly blocked and handed over to me to polish, and some were done from scratch.  The other spot was for Bandaid, and I animated two characters, a sad defeated ordinary bandaid and an ebullient, heroic new bandaid with super micro fiber somethings that make it spiffier than spiff.  I had a blast working there (my CG lead Dan Dixon had worked on one of the Matrix films and shared some badass shots of modeled set pieces with us).

Shortly after leaving there I got connected with Pandapanther on the Lower East Side, and I was brought in on the last month of a three month monster project that required them to produce close to 30 minutes of cinematic animated sequences for the videogame "Skylanders". This was for their new adventures called "Skylanders Giants" introducing some new characters. In addition to the FMVs (full motion videos) for the cut scenes in the game, I animated on a very peculiar trailer for "Skylander Giants" that aired at the E3 conference. What made it so peculiar was the aspect ratio of the trailer, which was roughly 7:1, or the similar to a web banner, only it was on a gigantic, long screen that towered overhead. Animating in such a long screen environment often felt like I was viewing the action through the gun turret of a tank. I saw some homevideo that someone took at the conference that showed the trailer playing, but so far I haven't seen it on the net. There is another trailer for the game that is up there, but in a more normal aspect ratio.

And now I am gearing up for SIGGRAPH, where I am working for the first time as a subcommittee member of the Student Volunteer program. I've been keeping the SV Facebook page active and fun since October, creating games and contests and silly videos.

So, 2012.  Liking it. Good first half. More please. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meet You At Irving Thalberg's Place...

And so begins Siggraph 2012, for the Student Volunteer Subcommittee that is. We convened at the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, thanks to our SV Committee chair, Mikki Rose, who works as a Cloth and Hair TD at Sony Animation. We held our "sync" meeting inside the Irving Thalberg building (and you can feel the ghosts!). Lots of posters from legendary Hollywood films on display, as well as a lobby festooned with Oscars. One small feature caught my eye. I think the window frames in the conference room we met in had to be the originals, as they had these long metal spacer bars with notches cut into them that are used to size the opening of the windows. Nice piece of the past to keep alive and active. Subtly connective.

The purpose of this gathering is to choose the Team Leaders for the upcoming conference, and begin to give shape to the SV program. We worked all through the day going over applications, and finally arriving at our selection of 22 excellent people for Team Leaders.

This time is also for the six of us to get to know each other better. Bonding time for this group of talented people: Mikki Rose, Eugene Harng, Christine Holmes, Carlin Yuen, Grace Arenas Strittmater, and me. We have been enjoying some great restaurant time, with an Argentinian breakfast to start. Carlin was taking pictures of our meals, later making the comment "I’ve always thought that being a food critic would be the best job. You’d just run around saying “I like your food!” “I don’t like your food”.

Later we had lunch in the Sony Pictures commissary, but alas, no celebrity sightings. Lots of people posing as if they were celebrities though, lol.  Mikki toured us through the backlot and I was struck with the dissonant disconnect as we walked past buildings all named after Hollywood legends like Thalberg and Astaire while passing the soundstages for "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy".

In the evening, we gathered at Mikki's home, where we met her dog Kizmet and continued some of the SVSC work on getting our online systems in shape, as well as being introduced to a card game called Set. We now know Christine Holmes is not to be messed with. She's killer at this game. It's now Saturday, and we will continue our discussions at Disneyland, and a final repast at the Blue Bayou. Yo ho!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Wow, it's the New Year, 2012, and with it comes new resolutions and resolve. At the top of my list is to not let this blog collect as much dust as it did since the last post! It's not as if I didn't have anything to blog about. So a little playing catch-up is in order. Highlights of the latter half of 2011 include...

... working as a Team Leader in the Student Volunteer program at Siggraph in Vancouver Canada last August! What a gorgeous city and setting for the convention. This was my fifth outing in the SV program, and I made a splash early on with my contribution to the creation of the TL Intro Video. I choreographed and assisted with the direction onsite of our version of "The Office Lip Dub". If you watched the season 7 opener of "The Office", you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, well, just take a look at our take on it here: The SV OFFICE LIP DUB  P.S. what you will see was done in ONE TAKE with no cuts!!!

I've been working fairly regularly at Launch in mid-town Manhattan, and I am enjoying the company of my animator friends in the Pit as we produce a never-ending slate of previs commercials for test marketing. We use Motion Builder which is quite a different animal from Maya, and it's fun to get to know how to handle motion capture data. It's also fun to see one of our efforts selected for full production, such as a recent Bud commercial for the Superbowl, always a good sign that we're on target with our output. Here's a link to their website, with some examples of the type of work we produce: LAUNCH

They finally aired the two episodes that I worked on for Nickelodeon's "Team Umizoomi" made at Curious Pictures during the fall of 2010. This is a popular show geared for a very young audience. I got to work with Maya for the first time in a production environment, and animated several characters in these two specials. The style is extremely simplistic, and the main challenge was the shear number of shots that needed to be output. It was just me and the lead animator for these two half hour specials. Here's a link to a short compilation of the shots I worked on: Team Umizoomi Shots.

The last bit of exciting news from 2011 is that I was selected to serve on the six-person Student Volunteer Subcommittee for Siggraph 2012! It is quite an honor, and I've been hard at work already, keeping the Facebook page for the SVs full of exciting news, contests, videos, and more. I can use that as some of my excuse for neglecting THIS blog. Here's the link where you can catch up on all that we are jabbering about the SV program: Siggraph 2012 Student Volunteers on Facebook.

So that's it. When I am not in the NYC at work, I am working hard at home on new animation clips for my demo reel, and I hope to have some WIPs to share here in a bit. In the meantime, I hope to hear from all of you and do some serious catching up. Cheers!